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    Lone Survivor

    18 Comments by Craig Sanders Published on 21st October 2019 12:54 PM
    Harry Morgan Sanders was born on July 10, 1923 in South Sheilds and joined the British Merchant Navy at age 17. He served on several convoys during the War as a Radio Officer. Apparently in 1942, his ship was torpedoed by a German submarine and sunk to the bottom of the mid Atlantic ocean. Harry, with a dislocated shoulder, swam to a Life Raft with several of his Mates, drifting a sea for weeks. Sadly, Harry watched all his Mates die, mostly at night, many voluntarily jumping into the dark seas, with no hope of survival. But Harry did (lone survivor), his raft washed up on the shores of Sierra Leone of South Africa. He was found unconscious, near dead by a fisherman and transported to a local Hospital to recover from his injuries and 3rd degree burns to his face and hands. Surely this event is documented and can be vetted. Did anyone know or serve with Harry? I look forward to hearing from your Membership. Craig Harry Sanders

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    Appreciated, true heroes of the MN many conflicts.

    It has been said before that if blood was the price,
    they paid in full.

    Keith.
    "Our veterans did not forget about us .... Let's not forget about them." From Michael Levesque

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    Hello Craig
    One would think that such an event would be well documented. There must be somewhere that it is! This is a good challenge and hopefully all will look into it.
    Just one thing (and nothing meant) Sierra Leone is off the West Coast of Africa Freetwon,and not South Africa. Just mentioning this as it could help the search
    Cheers and thanks for the Thread. Do you know the name of the Ship Craig ???

    I will be doing some research on this in the coming days ,possibly there may be something out there. Will of course Post of any progress made if any!
    Last edited by Doc Vernon; 22nd October 2019 at 04:31 AM.
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    Usually if our ships were sunk off West Africa, it was done by the French, they were based in French West Africa at Dakar, next door to Freetown, They sank a lot of our ships that were sailing to or from South Africa ,
    They usually put the survivors into their PoW Camps there, in terrible conditions.
    Last edited by Captain Kong; 22nd October 2019 at 09:57 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Captain Kong View Post
    Usually if our ships were sunk off West Africa, it was done by the French, they were based in French West Africa at Dakar, next door to Freetown, They sank a lot of our ships that were sailing to or from South Africa ,
    They usually put the survivors into their PoW Camps there, in terrible conditions.
    Blimey! I didn't know that. So Vichy France was a combatant? I wonder how the French submarine crews felt about being in alliance with the Germans.
    Harry Nicholson

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    Hi Harry,
    The French PoW camps in West Africa were notorious as being worse than the Japanese Camps, with Red Cross parcels thrown into the swamps to rot instead of being given to the British Merchant Seamen PoWs, Many were marched through the jungles and swamps and across the Desert to Timbuctoo and died there,
    only about ten years ago the BWGC found the graves of our men there, a thousand miles from the sea, and now look after them.
    After WW2 the French Government paid the British Labour Government, under P.M.Attlee, many hundreds of thousands of pounds for the Widows and Children of the Dead British Seamen, the Government Confiscated the money, the Widows and Children did not get one penny.
    I have writterm many letters to, ....8 to Milliband, when he was leader of the Labour Party, 8 letters to Corbyn, the Leader of the Labour Party, 8 letters to McDonnell the Shadow Chancellor of the Labour Party, asking "WHERE IS THE MONEY? WHO HAS GOT IT,? WHY WAS IT NOT PAID TO THE WIDOWS AND ORPHANS,"
    Not one answer to 24 letters.
    WHY??????
    Last edited by Captain Kong; 22nd October 2019 at 10:54 AM.

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    From THE PEOPLES WAR SITE..............

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    A Fateful Voyage: Convoy under Attack in the Atlantic (Part 2) - Tale of Unexploded Bombs and Heroism by Bernard de Neumann
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    Archive List > Books > A Fateful Voyage: Convoy under Attack in the Atlantic by Bernard de Neumann

    Contributed by
    Bernard de Neumann
    People in story:
    Peter de Neumann, GM, Captain Dobeson
    Location of story:
    South Atlantic, West Africa, Conakry, Sahara Timbuctoo, Kankan
    Background to story:
    Civilian Force
    Article ID:
    A8021774
    Contributed on:
    24 December 2005
    On 9 may 1941 HMS CILICIA stopped and captured CRITON, and escorted her into Freetown. CRITON had carried a cargo of shells to replenish the garrison shore-batteries at Dakar following de Gaulle's abortive raid. CRITON's French captain had her extensively sabotaged en route for Freetown, and even tried to ram CILICIA in Freetown roads. Some of CRITON's French crew were pro-British, but most were very anti, including her captain (Capt Illisbule). In Freetown, the RN appointed Ropner's as managers, despite the fact that she had not been through a prize court, and CRITON was crewed by a scratch crew of volunteers who were all looking for a rapid means of returning to the UK having recently lost their own ships - for example, Peter de Neumann, GM (later Captain), was due to be married and was trying to get home quickly, signed on as her Second Officer. CRITON sailed in convoy SL78, but could not maintain convoy speed due to the sabotage, and was ordered back to Freetown at noon on 20 June by the convoy escort, HMS ESPERANCE BAY.

    At 0930 GMT on the morning of the 21st June 1941, the CRITON spotted two unflagged warships approaching them from the direction of Conakry. One of these vessels (EDITH GERMAINE) went out to sea, and cut off any escape route. The other (AIR FRANCE 4) ordered the CRITON to stop, whilst approaching from the port quarter. The CRITON immediately transmitted a radio message saying that they were about to be attacked. With this the AIR FRANCE 4 fired a shot at the CRITON, either at the radio room, or across the bows, and once more ordered the CRITON to stop. Immediately after the shot both warships raised French Ensigns. The CRITON then slowed, as it then appeared better to try and bluff it out rather than continue to attempt to escape. The AIR FRANCE 4 then signalled the CRITON demanding to have identification; this was achieved by flying the International Signal Flags VH. The CRITON played for time, whilst the ship's international signal letters group was discovered, of course, the hope was that aircraft or a British warship would be sent to assist. The AIR FRANCE 4 came up alongside the CRITON, lay off about 50 yards and threatened the CRITON with its machine guns. In response to this threat the CRITON was forced into displaying, or maybe attempted a bluff by displaying, a set of flags which were obtained from the Flag locker, and which probably were the signal letters of the ship. For the CRITON these would have comprised the letter F (for France) followed by three other letters (identifying the ship). The AIR FRANCE 4 then ordered the CRITON to "Turnabout" and proceed into Conakry. CRITON replied telling AIR FRANCE 4 to "Go to Hell", and held her course. This verbal confrontation took place with the use of old fashioned megaphones! At this time (noon) two and a half hours had elapsed since the first encounter, and, no doubt, the French realised the danger which they might be in, and this coupled with the strange behaviour of the CRITON made the Captain of the AIR FRANCE 4 rather jumpy. Losing patience the AIR FRANCE 4 came to within 30 yards of the CRITON, and opened up with her machine guns. The Captain of the CRITON ordered "Full Speed Ahead", and whilst the CRITON gathered speed, the AIR FRANCE 4 began shelling the CRITON with her 75mm gun. Several members of the crew of the CRITON were injured during this event. Immediately the shelling commenced the Captain of the CRITON ordered "Stop Engines" and "Abandon Ship". The AIR FRANCE 4 fired some forty-five 75mm rounds at the CRITON, hitting her superstructure, but especially firing at her water line. Since the cargo was iron-ore which is very dense, the holds were mainly empty, even with a full load, and hence the shells which hit the hull went right through. Some shells narrowly missing de Neumann's boat, which was being launched on the far-side (and therefore invisible from AIR FRANCE 4). Captain Dobeson was the last to leave CRITON, but fell into de Neumann’s boat and badly injured himself. After some time in the boats, and when the CRITON was adjudged to be thoroughly disabled, the survivors were picked up by AIR FRANCE 4 and taken into Conakry. At Conakry they were disembarked into a banana shed on one of the wharves and kept under guard for several hours until the police arrived. The men were then taken to a concentration camp in the jungle, about four miles outside of Conakry, where they were forced with bayonets and rifle butts into a specially prepared and wired off compound in a camp that was already occupied by Europeans. CRITON’s crew later learned that these other occupants were merchant seamen from sunken Allied merchant ships who had made landfall from their lifeboats on Vichy territory. However CRITON’s crew, and especially her executive officers were singled out for special treatment and kept isolated from the others with the threat that anyone who tried to talk through the wire would be shot. CRITON’s crew were individually interrogated by the French Colonial Police, whom CRITON’s crew regarded as effectively Gestapo. Quite quickly the French Naval Authorities had realised that, embarrassingly, they had sunk their own ship, and thus during the first weeks of their internment in "Sept Kilometres" camp, Conakry, these authorities attempted to blackmail the Officers (by suggesting it would be in their interests), to sign a statement saying that the CRITON had been scuttled. This the Captain and Officers steadfastly refused to do, and so the (Vichy) French Navy court-martialled the executive officers, charging them with piracy and acting as frank-tireurs. They were all found guilty, and, no doubt remembering Captain Fryatt, who was shot by the Germans as a frank-tireur in the First World War, wondered what their fate would be. This accusation was based on a technicality: the fact that the CRITON had displayed her French registration in answering the call for identification. The Vichy French Naval Authorities appeared to be desperate to blame the crew of the CRITON for the events which led to its sinking, presumably because they sank their own ship. The treatment of the survivors was uniformly bad, and they were kept isolated from other allied internees. In fact it was made clear that the crew of the CRITON were to receive special treatment.

    On September 26, 1941, the whole crew, except those in hospital in Conakry, were ordered out of the camp and into trucks. With a heavily armed guard they were escorted into the jungle, and they started to think that they were to be shot, but it turned out that they were being taken to Conakry railway station. Here they were put on board a train, and a journey began to an unknown destination that lasted until October 7, 1941, when they arrived, they discovered in the legendary city of Timbuctoo. Conditions in Conakry had been awful, but conditions in Timbuctoo were even worse. They remained in Timbuctoo, being kept under really poor conditions until August 5, 1942, when they were once more embarked upon a journey with unknown destination. On August 24, 1942, they arrived at a camp set up in an agricultural college just outside Kankan. Here they remained until December 14, 1942, when they began their journey of repatriation, arriving at Freetown on December 18, 1942. From Freetown they sailed back to the Clyde arriving on January 15, 1943. Peter de Neumann was married on February 13, 1943, having attended his investiture two days previously. After some survivors’ leave, he returned to sea.

    The crew of the CRITON received far worse treatment than any other British prisoners of the Vichy French, and was imprisoned longer than other MN prisoners in West Africa.
    After the war the French government made an ex gratia payment to the British government in compensation, but did not apologise. To add insult to injury, the British Labour government of the day kept the money, and the exceedingly poor treatment of the crew of the CRITON conveniently forgotten. Like the Japanese, the Vichy French withheld medicines, Red Cross parcels, clothing and footwear, leaving them rotting in the sun.

    Captain Gerald Dobeson, CRITON's Master, received a King's Commendation for Brave Conduct in June 1943.

    CRITON crew who died:

    William Freeman - 19 November 1942.
    Douglas Hyland - 16 January 1943.
    Jack Savage - 10 September 1941.
    William T. Williams (Striker) - 20 August 1942.

    The following two from ALLENDE died and are buried in Timbuctoo. They were briefly imprisoned with CRITON's crew following ALLENDE's loss on 17 March 1942:

    John Graham - 2 May 1942. Allende
    William Soutter - 28 May 1942. Allende

    CRITON's entire crew list follows:

    CREW LIST OF THE CRITON

    RANK NAME PREVIOUS SHIP

    Captain Dobeson, G.T. WRAY CASTLE
    Chief Officer Chalmers, R.L. BENVENUE
    2nd Officer de Neumann, B.P. TEWKESBURY, EXHIBITOR, HMS CILICIA
    3rd Officer Christie, J.W. BENVENUE
    Token Prize Crew Stretton, S.K. HMS QUEEN OF BERMUDA
    Chief Engineer Clear, N.T. BRITISH GRENADIER
    2nd Engineer Francis, S. WRAY CASTLE
    3rd Engineer Armstrong, J. BRITISH GRENADIER
    4th Engineer Taylor, A.L. BENVRACKIE
    1st Radio Officer Carter, R. JHELUM
    2nd Radio Officer Whalley, G.A. MEMNON
    3rd Radio Officer Johnson, P. MEMNON
    Chief Steward Robert, L.C. BRITISH GRENADIER
    2nd Steward Gregory, H.A. BRITISH GRENADIER
    3rd Steward Hyland, D. BRITISH GRENADIER
    Cabin Boy Vaughan, G.C. TWEED
    Bosun Macleod, D. BRITISH GRENADIER
    Carpenter Ago (Burton) BRITISH GRENADIER
    Cook Oliver, R. TWEED
    Sailors Hunter, A. BRITISH GRENADIER
    Ancharonain, P.M. WILLIAM WILBERFORCE
    Frost, T.W. BRITISH GRENADIER
    Lloyd, J. BRITISH GRENADIER
    Taylor, A. (Lewis Gunner?) WILLIAM WILBERFORCE
    Thomson, J. BRITISH GRENADIER
    Holsman, M. BRITISH GRENADIER
    Young, L. TEWKESBURY
    Wheatley, J. BRITISH GRENADIER
    Prentice, R.J. BENVRACKIE
    Beresford, J. (Lewis Gunner ) WILLIAM WILBERFORCE (paid off at Freetown)
    Birdsell, L. (Lewis Gunner ) WILLIAM WILBERFORCE (paid off at Freetown)
    Nott, A. (Lewis Gunner ) TUNISIA (paid off at Freetown)

    All below natives from Freetown.
    Sailor Bounbouctar, A.

    Cook Mane, S

    Greasers Campbell, J.
    Korka, M.
    Chryser, E.
    Savage, J.

    Firemen Brainard, C
    Dixon, S
    Freeman
    Dickson
    Williams, G
    Williams, G
    Deen, N
    Caba, F
    Sams, W
    Johnson, P
    Parmar, P
    Camara, A
    Sanes, J
    Thomas, M

    Stowaway Michel, T
    Last edited by Captain Kong; 22nd October 2019 at 11:10 AM.

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    TY for ur reply. My father could not remember the name of the ship. He never talked about his Navy experiences until he turned 94. He was starting to lose his facilities. As u suggest, this epic episode much have been recorded/ documented by the BMN. I look forward to any more information u may find/ provide. Craig

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    Craig
    A silly question here but do you not have his Merchant Seamans Discharge Book at hand!?? Or any other Papers that may have some info on his Ships etc!

    Thanks

    PS I have started some research but cannot say if anything will come of it,but will of course post if anything does come to hand.
    Last edited by Doc Vernon; 22nd October 2019 at 09:33 PM.
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    Craig,

    Are you the son of Harry Morgan Sanders? Or an family member? If so you must surely know the name of his ship and a few more details of his life after the war which would help members of this Forum find out more about him?

    Fascinating story but SIERRA LEONE was a British colony so Harry would not have ended up in a Vichy French POW Camp.

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